Bikes, feet and transit need you!

Seattle's proposed 2011/2012 budget includes two important funding mechanisms for projects that improve our ability to safely and efficiently walk, bike or take transit through the city: 1) a five percent increase in the commercial parking tax and 2) an increase in on-street parking meter rates. Both of these measures are in real danger of being thrown out by City Council. If we are going to prevent this, we must act now! Below are some talking points that I feel compelled to share with our readers. Please spread the word and help Cascade convince City Council that these revenue generators—and the essential programs and services they fund—must stay in the proposed budget.

Commercial Parking Tax Increase:

** The Mayor’s proposed 2011/2012 budget includes an increase in the commercial parking tax (CPT) of an extra five percent for dedicated support of walking, biking and transit projects; core Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) services; and the South Park Bridge replacement.

** If the City Council does not support the proposed increase, funding for biking and walking will decline by 25 percent in comparison to last year (from $20.6 million in 2010 to $15.6 million in 2011). This represents a huge step backwards in the city’s commitment to walking, biking, transit and the environment.

** The Mayor’s proposed CPT increase amounts to only 50 cents on a $10 parking fee and that’s only if pay lot owners choose to pass the tax on to consumers. Given the current state of the market, it is unlikely that they would do so.

** When more people walk, bike and take transit, public health gets a boost due to better air quality and more physically active people. Bicycle, pedestrian and transit investments are one of the most effective ways of combating obesity.

** Funding walking, biking, and transit projects through the proposed CPT increase is important for climate protection and the city’s commitment to being carbon neutral by 2030.

On-Street Parking Meter Rate Increase:

** Parking meter revenue goes to the General Fund, of which the city has a $67 million hole to fill. If the city does not increase the parking rates, more support for our transportation system will have to come from the General Fund, reducing funding for essential services like police, fire, human services and libraries.

** The Mayor’s proposed 2011/2012 budget includes an increase in parking meter rates from $2.50 to $4 an hour downtown and just 50 cents in other areas. Paid parking hours would extend to 8 p.m. (from 6 p.m.) Monday through Saturday, and to Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (previously free).

** Studies indicate that increased parking rates on Seattle streets would benefit businesses, increase parking turnover and availability, and reduce the number of motorists circling in search of parking (estimates from different cities conclude that between 30 and 45 percent of traffic in downtown areas is due to people looking for street parking). Best practice is to price parking so that 15 percent of parking spots on a street are available at any time. Downtown Seattle street parking is currently at 100 percent capacity for most of the day.

Please educate others about what these funding mechanisms would mean for Seattle. Here are two ways to help:

1)  Tell three people why the commercial parking tax and on-street parking meter rate increases are essential for walking, biking and transit in Seattle.

2)  Tell City Council. Here are some great, pointed questions to ask (copy and paste them into your email):

** Do you support walking, biking and riding transit?

** Are you going to cut all the projects that the five percent increase in commercial parking tax would fund?

** If the five percent commercial parking tax is out, how are we going to pay for Walk Bike Ride? How will we pay for the South Park Bridge? What about the core SDOT services that will go unfunded?

** If the commercial parking tax increase is cut, the dollar amount we're spending on pedestrian and bicycle improvements will go from $20.6 million in 2010 to $15.6 million in 2011. How can reducing funding for these modes by 25 percent possibly be okay, given the city's goals to address climate change and support healthy and livable communities?

In addition to emailing City Council, you can also attend the October 26 budget hearing to urge the Council to approve dedicated funding for bikes, feet and transit:

Tuesday, Oct. 26, Seattle City Hall, Council Chambers
2nd floor, 600 Fourth Avenue, 98104
Sign-in at 5 p.m. Hearing starts at 5:30 p.m.

Thank you!